This week I’ve received a few emails from my university telling me that it’s Housing Week. My university provides accommodation for all first-year students, but having spent my first year in halls I was definitely relieved to be moving to a space that I’d chosen myself. Some parts of the process played out as smoothly as I could have hoped, but there a few things I wish I’d known last year. Here’s my advice for finding private student accommodation:
1. Choose your housemates wisely. Moving to uni is daunting – there’s no other way to say it. One of the most difficult parts is being randomly allocated to a flat or corridor full of people you’ve never met, and might not get on with. Moving to private accommodation is your chance to pick your own housemates, but you have to pick carefully. How does their work ethic or lifestyle compare to yours? Are they clean? Loud? Pedantic? It all counts!
2. Location. Obviously, close to uni. But there might be a bit more to it. Universities have many surrounding areas with completely different atmospheres. Every university town tends to have an area packed full of uni students, and the nightlife is usually the best there. Other areas of town will have a calmer atmosphere, with fewer student houses. If nightlife isn’t really your thing, think about moving to these areas instead.
3. Be wary. Take note of horror stories from second and third years about estate agents in your area. If lots of different people tell you to avoid a particular estate agent, it’s probably worth listening to them. If the estate agent you settle on tells you that there are forty other viewings for your property in the next three days or that anything is ‘flying off the market’, take it with a pinch of salt. If you’re not certain, don’t settle.
4. Ask questions. That bit of damp in the bathroom? Ask about it. That broken gas ring? Ask about it. Whose responsibility is it to get it sorted? Make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
As a bonus, here’s a couple of tips for after your accommodation is secured:
1. Read everything. Landlords and estate agents don’t always expect students to read their tenancy agreement or inventory before they sign them, which is exactly why you should make sure you do. If there’s a scratch on the wall that isn’t mentioned in the inventory, have it amended. If the carpet in the hallway is peeling up at the corner, have it amended. (All in the interest of your security deposit, obviously.)
2. Discuss everything. The more you discuss in advance, the easier moving in will be. For example, if all the rooms are different sizes, decide who gets which room beforehand. Bills should also be sorted in advance: if your rent doesn’t include a bills package, discuss things like direct debits and standing orders to make sure that nobody is left short of money.